It is the year two thousand twelve. All of the United States and the bigger part of Europe are connected to the internet. Heck even Africa catches up, not even talking about Asia here. Advertising goes mostly through this medium by now. How did that happen? Because it had one advantage other media was unable to provide: trackabilitiy. For every dollar you spend on Adwards, it can tell you the money in return you made. Or you didn’t, so you can decide to cut it. Suddenly you can spend money only on those things which work. And don’t have to pump huge amounts of money to fuel a fire you were unable to see.
Which didn’t only lead to a crisis in other media but also to a shift in the way these material needs to produced. With the internet at your hand, you can test your marketing campaign in seconds. There is not requirement for picking that one video clip out of ten in hidden boardrooms, you can publish all of them on Youtube and just look which one yields the best response and then go with it. That didn’t cost you a dime. And the trackability of this medium allows you to make more sane and smarter decisions - even against your personal judgement. Because the numbers indicate the success.
Now the reaction of the agencies was, to focus on making uncommon ideas happen to justify big piles of money. Because aside from coming up with a great idea, it requires a big deal of execution experience to pull that of. As such those campaigns are more of the creative part of things and do their best to not be trackable at all: so called guerilla marketing. But aside from their “viral campaings” on top, they are not scalable and barely have any impact: what does the number of Youtube viewers of a random video mean for your sales? Nothing.
As a startup you do not know anything more than any big corp CEO or agency director. But you even have less money. Sure you can make your own guerilla marketing campaign, but also have a close eye on the objective and how to actually track the performance. Your biggest advantage to the established companies is that you are slim and slick and can change course quickly if something doesn’t work. And that doesn’t only go for the classic marketing of your product and brand, but deep down to the members of your meetup.com group on the topic or when you post adds on job boards - use unique email-adresses or bit.ly links to track the performance.
And this even goes into the world of offline: in this age, where everything has become trackable, why ever pay for a service, whose results you can’t measure? And your only insurance is that some sales person tells you “it is going great?”. You don’t have the time, nor the money to rely on that. Only if they have to proof their value with hard facts (not Youtube or Page-Views, but actual sales) and charge you on those, you can grow. Otherwise you are just wasting money. And any business refusing to give you actual, accurate measurements and get charged on those, is not worth talking to. They do not offer any benefit and they know it.